Feedback,  Leadership,  Organisation

The importance of peer feedback in self managing organisations

Self managing organisations distribute leadership and decision making. The more successful it is (i.e. the more effectively people manage themselves and make decisions) the faster the organisation is.

If you’re trying to grow or sustain a self managing organisation you need effective peer feedback loops. Organisations that lack peer feedback loops usually starts exhibiting some or several of the following bad smells:

  • relationships are deteriorating (the fewer and weaker relationships you have, the harder it is to get help and thereby accomplish things)
  • growth has stalled (of people, the org, and the product) 
  • sub groups are forming (us and them mentality, conflict, misalignment)
  • hierarchy is amplified (bottlenecks are introduced in the organisation)
  • lead and cycle times are increasing (the teams and org becomes slower)
  • the wrong problems are being solved (misalignment)
  • quality is dropping (people are less passionate and take short cuts which affects the product and user base)
  • teams are making poor or no decisions (management starts pushing decisions on teams)
  • morale is low (people stop having fun and quit)

Because the absence of peer feedback has such a negative impact on everything from performance to wellbeing I pay close attention to organisations feedback culture. Here are a few questions that help me understand the culture:

  1. Is feedback delivered by peers or is it proxied via managers?
  2. Is feedback offered or is it pushed?
  3. Is it constructive and objective, or is it full of subjectiveness and labels?
  4. Do people have the necessary tools they need in order to offer and process peer feedback?
  5. Who are the role models and how do they work with feedback?
  6. How often do people receive/offer feedback?
  7. Who decides who people get feedback from?
  8. Do people think they receive enough feedback from their peers?
  9. What do people associate with the concept peer feedback?

I want to point out that peer feedback doesn’t just happen by itself. Organisations that want peer feedback loops need to actively invest to make it happen, and managers are key in this.

In the organisation that I’m currently engaged in we (the lead team and I) have invested heavily in creating a peer feedback environment over the last year. We identified four different levels/areas that we needed to invest in: individuals, teams, organisation, and processes.

In each of these levels/areas we’ve done different things e.g. coached individuals, trained teams, facilitated feedback conversations, defined a process for the org, and more. While it hasn’t been free of complication we’ve been quite successful and we’ve learned a lot in this process. I plan on sharing more about this at a later point.

I’d love to hear and learn from you on this topic. How does your organisation work with peer feedback? Please comment or drop me an email on

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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